You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Friday, June 14, 2013

Parting Words

After 20 years working for Red Deer Public Schools, I want to take a moment to recognize the colleagues in administration who have left the biggest impact on me.

Every Conversation Is Important - Barrie Wilson
Barrie was my first principal and to this day, he is one of my biggest heroes in education. In my books, he ranks with John Dewey, Howard Gardner and Elliot Eisner. He is an amazing, energetic, inspiring man. The biggest lesson I learned from Barrie was the importance of taking time to speak with (and listen to) people. Barrie would always ask me about my life away from the school. Even more important, he remembered what  we talked about and followed up on it. As a beginning teacher, I spent many hours in the school on the weekend and it seemed that Barrie was usually there. He ALWAYS took time to have a quick conversation about what was going on in my life. Today, I know how important it is to acknowledge the people I spend my day with. I'm no Barrie, but I can always aspire to be like him.

Passion is Power - Jerry Simonsen
Jerry was my second principal at Eastview Middle School. He is also the man I can blame and thank for pushing me to become an administrator. Like Barrie Wilson and so many of the people who coached me, Jerry believed in me. Jerry is incredibly passionate about many things - athletics, fishing, fitness, underdogs and students who fall through the cracks in the system. When Jerry believes in something, he does everything he can to make sure it is successful. Jerry's belief that I could and should be a leader in our school changed my life forever.

Work Hard, Play Hard, Laugh Lots - Rita Di Placido
For five years, I worked with Rita at Grandview Elementary School. As a teacher, administrator, parent and member of our school council, I came to respect "Mrs. D" in the most profound way possible. Nobody in our building worked harder than Rita. She was usually the first person at school and the last person to leave. If she wasn't in the building, there was a good chance she was doing something related to our school. Rita's intense pride and love of what happened at Grandview was evident in everything she did. She never missed a dress up day or a staff party. Rita capitalized on opportunities to play and laugh with exactly the same fervor she approached the "work" of being our school's principal. She was an amazing role model.

Show Interest - Sharon Lewis
I will never forget the feeling of being taken under Sharon's wing. Sharon is, quite possibly, the kindest and most thoughtful person I know. As a beginning teacher, I was invited out for drinks and over to Sharon's house for meals. Sharon and her husband Brad made such an effort to get to know me and we have become lifelong friends as a result. I can tell you with absolute certainty, however, that I am not the only new teacher Sharon has reached out to. Her sincere interest in others sets her apart as a teacher and administrator. I was fortunate to be her colleague, both as teacher and in admin, and I am incredibly sad that I missed the opportunity to be part of an admin team at GH Dawe.

Collaborate (and Serenity Now!) - Brian Bieber
When I arrived at Glendale Middle School, I was exposed to one of the most professional and thoughtful leaders I have ever worked with. To this day, I marvel at how organized, efficient and thoughtful Brian Bieber is. From never having a hair out of place to detailed agendas and planning, I've never worked with someone as "together" as Brian, though I still suspect he may have connections to the IRA. Brian is a master of gathering input and consensus. He values, considers and weighs the opinions of all stakeholders with a skill that I have witnessed in very few people. I only worked with him for two years, but the concept of "Serenity Now" is an absolute necessity when you work in difficult situations.

If You Don't Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students - Marty Klipper
During my first two years of administration, I had the joy of working with Marty Klipper. Marty is one of the most sincere, genuine and caring human beings I have ever met. I was incredibly fortunate to learn about administration from Marty, because he always emphasized the need for teachers to feel like they could make a difference. Teacher efficacy was the focus of Marty's MEd and I learned a great deal from him about equipping teachers to do their best, reinforcing their efforts, and perhaps buying a couple of jugs of beer on Friday....

My Kids - Jean Cobb
I only worked with Jean for a year, but what stands out for me more than anything is her focus on the students in her school. They are "her kids" and Jean loves them like a mother. We laughed and enjoyed our time at Grandview. Jean allowed me to carve my own niche, helped me learn about compassion, and was instrumental in my successful transition to an elementary school.

Think - Bob Barthel
This year with Bob has been tremendous. He is an incredibly thoughtful man and I have grown to appreciate his laid back, sincere and pensive manner. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.

When I was 13 years old, I learned a lesson from my Grandpa. I went to visit him in the Cross Cancer clinic following his first round of radiation treatment. Prior to the treatment, he had a thick head of hair, and when I came into the room, he was wearing a United Way ball cap with a mesh back. He smiled, removed his hat and ran his hand over his bald head. His words were simple. “My hair is gone” he remarked, “but I have a really smooth head.” 

Grandpa’s words and the lesson behind them ring true for me today. Things have changed, but I have found a new opportunity and I am happy to make the best of it.


  1. Well said. I am also one who is happy to see you in administration. I found you very thoughtful so you had things figured out before you leapt..
    You were a great storyteller. I'll never forget some of your stories. I'm still wondering if you ware socks for your interview for your position at Delburne!!!
    Good luck. I know you'll do well and Delburne will benefit.

  2. I appreciate the kind words, Keith. I did mention the sock story at our admin farewell yesterday. I didn't have the same issues on my way for the Delburne interview!

  3. I hope you realize how many people would include you in their list of memorable people. Your staff has such admiration and respect for you. I admire your hard work ethic and how you see the humor in every situation. You recognize the importance of family and have created one in every school you have worked in. Delburne is a very lucky community to have you leading them. You are a very special leader!

    Kim Jewan

  4. DCS is fortunate to have you as their leader.